They want to change the rules of the game and made a start, from their homes. From taking on “not-so-manly household chores” to spreading awareness against AIDS, these young men are learning to treat women as their equals.
Ganesh Phule, from Pune, used to be master of the house in his father’s absence and his mother and sister were expected to submit to his every command. That was two years ago. Recently, the 22-year-old commerce graduate stood up for his sister, when his parents arranged a match for her. Phule opposed his sister being treated as an exhibit by the boy’s family.
“I cook, wash utensils and clean the house as well. All of us have hands, so why should women alone do all the work,” asks Sunil Chachar. Like Phule, this 21-year-old until some time ago thought housework wasn’t for men.
Why the sudden change? These youngsters are part of a two-year project aimed at redefining masculinity and promoting gender-sensitive behaviour among men. Yuva Maitri (friendship among young) is the brainchild of Mumbai-based activist Harish Sadani.
In his first year, Sadani and experts from various disciplines worked with 33 men — in the age group of 18 to 20, most of them were from rural areas of Pune. They were sensitised on gender equality, sexuality, domestic violence and even masculinity and trained as “communicators” — to spread the message. “We tried to revisit gender norms with them. At their age, the ideas can be shaped. It’s the right time to correct faulty socialisation,” said Sadani.